It doesn’t happen often, but today was one of those days where everything conspired to remove almost all everyday life responsibilities and requirements … and the weather was absolutely perfect. So what is a free wheeling guy supposed to do? Get out the motorcycle and ride, of course!
I have always loved riding, but it has become a much less frequent activity over the past few years. You know how it goes … work, travel, commitments, blah blah blah. But not today; today was wide open and as I watched it approach from the beginning of the week, I kept my eyes focused on the weather forecast. It would be sunny and almost 80 degrees, in Milwaukee, in early October, with the leaves changing colors, and almost everybody else at work or school or wherever they should be on a Friday. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.
If you are a motorcycle rider, you know riding is an incredible experience. It may be a bit much to compare it to a spiritual experience, or meditation, but there are undeniable parallels. The pre-ride rituals and preparations are always the same. You adorn the correct gear; long pants, sturdy shoes or boots, leathers, and for me, always a helmet. My bikes are getting a bit up in age now, so I take the “pre-ride bike check” a little more serious, looking for signs of wear, or anything loose. It is a ritual. I realize I always sequence my gear in the same order, and I check out the bike in the same way; beginning on the port side (as if it were a ship), around the front, to the other side, and around the rear last.
Today, I rode west on the country highways and scenic roads. The sun was at my back lighting the road ahead brilliantly. The breeze would occasionally knock a flock of leaves off a tree, a few of them bouncing off of me as they dove towards the ground. The colors are not quite at peak, but beautiful nonetheless. The temperature was absolutely perfect; allowing me to be in my riding leathers, but being completely cool and comfortable. It was a day to ride all day long … and I did.
You have plenty of time to meditate on the back of a motorcycle. Your view of the gentle winding roads, as a backdrop to the elegant curves of the tank, handlebars and headlamp in front of you, unfurls before you with each twist and turn. The constant massage of the wind on your body reminds you of how fast you are going. The engine rumbles or screams, depending on the bike you are riding, and responds to the slightest twist of your wrist on the throttle. The rhythmic thump of the tires across the expansion joints in the road provides the heartbeat as the miles pass under you. First you see, and then you feel each and every subtle variation of the road through your hands on the bars, your feet on the pegs, and your butt in the saddle. You are very connected to the asphalt or concrete. It is unlike anything you feel in a car.
My rides always follow the same pattern. I head in a chosen general direction and seek roads I have never been on. I want to explore, take my time, experience the sights I haven’t seen … after all, why should you be in a hurry. Our entire lives, we are in such a hurry … for rides, I insiste upon “hurry-free”. I simply want to meander and discover. Every ride should have an element of discovery and surprise. I always want to learn something new. This, of course, leads to the second phase of the ride: lost. There is always the point, and this happened today about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison, and roughly fifteen miles south of I-94, where I find myself wondering where I am. Being completely lost in the ride is the sure sign you are exactly where you should be. This is my favorite part, but sadly it usually doesn’t last long enough. Typically, you pop out on some road or in some city and know exactly where you are. From that point, I begin to weave my way back home.
Today, I burned most of the day on my ride, had to fill the tank once, and didn’t even have anybody try to run me over … not even close. As I write this, I can still feel my skin tingle from the wind, and smell the road on my clothes. I expect the bike is still ticking and popping as it cools and recovers in the garage. All elements were in perfect alignment and produced a simply glorious day.
I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow.